June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
First-year Programs Division Technical Session 6: Hands-on Projects and Spatial Skills
26.590.1 - 26.590.8
Efficacy of Various Spatial Visualization Implementation Approaches in a First-Year Engineering Projects CourseSpatial visualization skills are both learnable1 and highly correlated with success in engineering.Convinced that improvement in its students’ spatial visualization (SV) skills would supportimproved retention in the engineering program at a highly research-active university, the first-year engineering projects course faculty team embarked on an evolving and escalating effort tocultivate its students’ SV abilities. Starting in the 2013 academic year, the spatial visualizationskills of a cohort of ~200 entry-level engineering students were measured before and after theircompletion of a first-year engineering projects course. Students were tested using the PurdueSpatial Visualization Test: Visualization of Rotations2 (PVST:R) pre- and post-tests. Insubsequent semesters of the same course, the next student cohorts were also tested during thefirst and last weeks of the 16-week semester to see the impact of the addition of various formalcurricular approaches to cultivate spatial visualization skills. The efforts to improve SV abilitiesincluded 1) in-course SV curriculum and homework assignments, 2) voluntary out-of-class SVworkshops with homework assignments, with the potential to earn extra credit, and 3) amandatory out-of-class four-part SV workshop series for a targeted subset of students. This paperdescribes the various spatial visualization approaches and implementations across thosesemesters, and reports the resulting efficacy (or lack thereof) of each method.To accompany the first-year engineering design experience of entry-level engineering students,varying amounts of formal spatial visualization curricula were implemented and tested overseveral semesters. To begin, in spring 2013, no special training in spatial visualization wasprovided and 202 students took the PVST:R pre- and post-tests to determine whether the courseitself, or other factors in the first-year engineering curriculum, impacted students’ SVperformances. Even though this cohort of entry-level students was immersed in an academicengineering culture and the course included a significant amount of drawing and visualization ofthree-dimensional designs, a significant decrease in students’ SV scores was found across thesemester.During the subsequent fall 2013 semester, the next cohort (259 students) was introduced tospatial visualization concepts in the form of an introductory lecture added to the first-yearprojects course. In conjunction with the lecture, all students completed five online SV homeworkassignments, and were permitted to complete more for extra credit. The post-test was then takenby the fall 2013 cohort. Next, the entire spring 2014 cohort (305 students) took the PVST:R pre-test. This time, only the 49 students with scores below 20 (out of 30)—the “pass” threshold—were asked to participate in voluntary, out-of-class spatial visualization workshops led by agraduate teaching assistant. Of the 49 targeted students, 32 completed one or more of thehomework assignments, and 26 took the workshop post-test. All students in the spring 2014 thentook the post test at the end of the semester.Both the fall 2013 and spring 2014 pre- and post-test PVST:R scores showed improvement andwere statistically significant, but the gains and participation rates fell short of the faculty team’sprogram goals. Still believing that improved spatial visualization skills would lead to improvedretention in the engineering program, a more intensive implementation of the spatialvisualization curriculum was designed with the intent to aggressively develop SV skills amongthe ~500 students enrolled in the first-year projects course annually.During the next semester, fall 2014, participation in four, two-hour, out-of-class SV workshopswas required for the 16% of the cohort of 334 students who scored less than 66% (a score of 20)on the PVST:R pre-test. A significant gender difference was observed among the cohort subsetwith pre-test scores of less than 20—the subset was composed of 8% of the male students and42% of the female students in the cohort. Early performance results from this revised workshopseries are encouraging, and a second four-week session is scheduled for mid-semester to provideadditional detailed SV instruction for these students. Given the preliminary strength of the fall2014 outcomes, a similar strategy for delivering the SV curriculum is planned for the spring2015 cohort of the design-focused first-year course.With the objective to assess students’ change in spatial visualization skills via a hands-on designcourse amended with various forms of formal delivery of SV curricula, the full paper will reviewand compare the various approaches, assessing their success in improving students’ spatialvisualization skills. A correlation analysis between spatial visualization scores and semestergrades in core engineering courses such as calculus and chemistry will also be presented.References1. Sorby, S. A. and A. F Wysocki. “Introduction to 3-D Spatial Visualization: An Active Approach.” New York, NY: Thomson Delmar Learning, 2003.2. Guay, R. B. “Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Rotations.” West Lafayette, IN: Purdue Research Foundation, 1977.
Segil, J. L., & Myers, B. A., & Sullivan, J. F., & Reamon, D. T. (2015, June), Efficacy of Various Spatial Visualization Implementation Approaches in a First-year Engineering Projects Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23928
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015